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Since the Pope arrived in Brazil it started to snow in the south and people started to get eaten by fish in the north. I’m not saying these things are connected but it makes you wonder.

snow in brazil

Ok so it`s not exactly a lot of snow but this is the first time Curitiba has seen snow since 1975 (http://www.aljazeera.com/weather/2013/07/20137249425182485.html)

The woman attacked by the shark, Bruna Gobbi who was only 18,  was in the process of being saved from drowning when the shark attacked. She sadly died later in hospital. (Warning: The above video shows blood in the water). There are between 50 to 70 shark attacks wordwide annually, roughly equivalent to the number of cyclists killed in Sao Paulo City. Sharks are coming closer to the shoreline due to the lack of food caused by overfishing. According to National Geographic, the number of sharks killed annually is over 100 million.

Anyway from one predator that preys on helpless animals back to the Pope who, this week had the dubious privilege of being featured on the from page of Time magazine with what appear to be horns protruding from the top of his head.

the pope on time magazine

The Pope with an unfortunate graphic effect (http://www.time.com/time/covers/europe/0,16641,20130729,00.html)

The pontiff’s visit to Brazil this week has created a circus of media attention. The media coverage has been particularly entertaining at times with clips of fawning reporters being played practically on loops and the popular day time shows Mais Voce running a feature on what can only be described as religious bling. The feature, entitled ‘Crucifixes the celebrities like to wear’ took a tour of chic crosses to rival that of the host, Ana Maria Braga. Follow this link to see the feature on Celebrity crosses.

Today the Pope read mass at The Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady Aparecida, which, and I’m happy to be corrected on this, I believe is the second largest Catholic church in the world after St Peter’s in Vatican City. Legend has it that a group of fishermen were having a bad day until they found a headless statue in their net. They cast the net in again and found the head. Having cleaned the statue and wrapped it in cloth they went back to finishing and managed to fill their nets with fish. As a result of this they decided to build the second largest Catholic church on the planet. Never has so much effort gone into celebrating the cleaning up of a bit of fly tipping.

The Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady Aparecida

The Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady Aparecida where the Pope has just said Mass

view of the parana river

View from the top of the big tower where you can see the river where the fishermen found the decapitated statue.

Needless to say it`s a pretty big church with some interesting examples of contemporary religious art and  a nice view from the big tower but these were not the things that interested me most.

Firstly, down in the basement is a collection of artefacts that people had brought to the basilica to be prayed for. For example they may have brought photos of family members who were ill, nothing strange about that, but then it starts to get a bit weird. Let’s say, for example, that Uncle Barry has sprained his ankle, his relatives then might take in a photo of the foot or, alternatively, they might choose to take a model of a foot in instead.

feet hanging from a ceiling

Rows of artificial feet that people have brought into the Basilica in order that they might have relatives ill bits prayed for.

Interestingly enough it doesn`t stop there. people have brought in items that have caused injury such as exploded pressure cookers, guns, bottles of booze, packets of cigarettes many of which are on display in the basement but many more of which remain in storage.

The range of items in the collection is amazing, not least of which were the photos from a devout follower’s breast implant surgery that had been prayed for.

But it doesn’t stop there. The Basilica is a huge place receiving vast numbers of visitors each year. And, just like St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City where I was privileged one year to observe pope soap on a rope, it has the usual entertaining gift shops including cuddly Aparecida mascots.

cuddly toys

Official Aparecida mascots

Even more stunning though is the enormous food hall and shopping complex in the grounds of the Basilica designed to water, feed and relieve the thousands of visitors from their cash.

The shops in the centre sell absolutely everything from religious souvenirs to loudspeakers for car stereos some of which featured designs of naked women. Wandering through the shops brought to mind the biblical story when Jesus first visited the synagogue and turned over the tables of the moneylenders.

While there are undoubtedly many Catholics in Brazil there is a burgeoning evangelical community and churches can be found on almost every corner (they are outnumbered only by chemists and bakeries). Brazil is definitely a religious country, it’s almost impossible to leave someone’s presence without being told to go with God and many shops and restaurants have a bible stood on a pedestal just in case someone has come out without their own bible and desperately needs to look something up. I think that’s happened to all of us at one time or another.

But enough of this. I need to go back to the TV and see whether I can spot a news story that isn’t about the Pope, snow or royal births.

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